Three key areas where Middlesbrough's squad still looks worryingly short of options
Head coach Jonathan Woodgate has openly admitted that Middlesbrough’s squad remains worryingly thin after missing out on a couple of transfer targets earlier this summer.
There are some areas where Boro really do appear short of options, which could cause problems later in the campaign. We take a closer look at three key areas where the Teessiders appear particularly light.
Holding midfield – As things stand, Adam Clayton looks like Boro’s only realistic option to play in the anchorman role.
That doesn’t mean the 30-year-old is undroppable and, as we saw at Blackburn, Woodgate can tweak his formation from a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1.
The Boro boss has said he prefers the former set-up, yet that may not always be an option due to the depth of his squad.
When asked about his lack of options last week, Woodgate said: “The Clayton position. I can't keep expecting him to go 90, 90m 90 week in week out because when it gets to November, December, January, when you need to call on your squad, it's going to be difficult.”
Up front – Woodgate has backed first-choice striker Britt Assombalongato the hilt at the start of this season but, like Clayton, what happens if the frontman isn’t available?
Rudy Gestede came in for the Carabao Cup game against Crewe but didn’t look convincing before he was substituted in the second half.
Ashley Fletcher could also play through the middle, yet that would mean switching him from the left flank where Boro also look short of alternatives.
Centre-back – Daniel Ayala and Ryan Shotton have occupied the two centre-back positions so far this season, yet Boro’s lack of depth at the back is a little alarming.
Dael Fry’s return from injury will be a huge boost, and Woodgate has big plans for the talented 21-year-old who has looked comfortable when playing out from the back.
Captain George Friend can also be moved to centre-half, yet the defender’s recent injury setback is a concern.
Friend missed most of pre-season with a thigh issue and has now missed Boro’s last two league games with the same problem.